On a tour of the Njaim Mid-East Food Centre, Daniel Drolet discovers that Ottawa’s immigrant communities are changing as quickly as the selection of foods on the jam-packed shelves. That, in turn, is changing what foods are sold here — and how they are made
You want couscous? Yes? Okay then, do you want plain or flavoured? Regular, whole wheat, spelt, Jerusalem, or organic? Small, medium, or large? In a box? A bag? Or perhaps you prefer the five-kilo sack. And spices? Will it be taouk spice, kabseh spice, falafel spice, or tabouli spice? A sack of sumac or red ginger or mahlab seeds to go with that? A visit to the Njaim Mid-East Food Centre on Belfast Road at St. Laurent will set foodies salivating. More than just a grocery store, it is an Ali Baba’s cave full of food discoveries that lead to the farthest corners of the world’s kitchens.
Opened 22 years ago by the Njaim family — immigrants from Lebanon — it has expanded several times over the years and now offers one of the widest selections of international foods in the city. “We started catering to our own people, but then we realized there was a demand from other cultures, so we’ve become more international,” says Margo Njaim, daughter of the founders and now manager and co-owner of the store. “I don’t think our name does the store justice. We’re more than the Middle East.”